Monday, September 24th | 15 Tishri 5779

July 2, 2015 3:13 pm

An Open Letter to Human Rights Groups: You Can Stop Innocent Deaths in Lebanon

avatar by Eytan Sosnovich and James T Kahn

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Rockets fire from Gaza. PHOTO: Alalam.

Rockets fire from Gaza. PHOTO: Alalam.

To all those institutions who claim to defend Human Rights:

There is a mass slaughter about to erupt in southern Lebanon, and you can stop it. In recent weeks, Hezbollah has moved its arsenal of advanced weapons, including Burkan rockets with half-ton warheads, ballistic missiles, supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, and other state-of-the-art arms, from their former hiding places into villages and homes.

The reason for this transfer is clear – they plan to use the people of southern Lebanon as human shields in a future war with Israel. This tactic, this war crime, is spreading across the Middle East. Have you asked yourselves why this is happening now?

In last year’s war with Hamas, Israel introduced its new Iron Dome system to intercept incoming Hamas rockets and protect its own civilians. The Iron Dome also allowed Israel to pinpoint the location of incoming rockets so that Israeli retaliations would limit civilian casualties in Gaza. And when Israel did attack, it issued thousands upon thousands of warnings, urging Gazan civilians to leave targeted areas.

While Israel went above and beyond to save lives, Hamas took the opposite approach: it celebrated martyrdom, actively sought it, frequently proclaimed, “we desire death like you desire life,” and went to great lengths to maximize civilian death on both sides.  Hamas intentionally fired into population centers, and also martyred its own people by firing from hospitals and schools. Noted political commentator David P. Goldman explained that this was perhaps the first time in recorded history in which one side deliberately sacrificed its own people to gain sympathy. That strategy worked. Hamas wagered that you and the mainstream media would never call them on it, and you didn’t, and that was precisely why it worked.

What is especially ironic is that in spite of these plainly stated and opposite goals, the world still blames Israel for the deaths of those human shields, and fails to blame Hamas for them. Inspired by that result, Hezbollah has now transferred its vast arsenal – with a destructive capability many magnitudes greater than Hamas’ – to civilian centers in southern Lebanon.

More than a million Lebanese civilians are in harm’s way. Israel will be forced to act much more quickly and aggressively to protect Israel’s citizens, guaranteeing more civilian casualties on both sides. But Hezbollah has learned that it need not win militarily to harm Israel; it need only gain your favor. And so this crime of human shields is not only a crime against humanity, it is a crime against the institution of Human Rights itself. This crime seeks to exploit the ideals on which you are founded, to make you into pawns to be used for mass-murderous political ends.

Very soon, when Hezbollah launches these rockets, as they keep loudly announcing that they intend to do, the Gaza War will look like a picnic. That’s why now is the time for you to act; you must issue warnings, demand tribunals, deploy your resources, and publicize this crime.  Failure to act now, followed by blaming Israel later, will further affirm this strategy, making future wars more devastating and likely.

When atrocities succeed, they proliferate.  To counteract that natural rule, the civilized world must work very hard, as it did, for instance, at the Geneva Convention, which outlawed chemical weapons, to make them taboo.  But if the world tolerates chemical weapons long enough, which is happening in Syria, it will reverse the Geneva Convention and make chemical weapon use un-taboo again.

And what will come next if this crime of human shields is allowed to spread to victims beyond Lebanon and Israel? Should other nations let their own children die rather than risk intentionally killing civilians who are shielding combatants – or should Israel alone be told that they must allow their children to be murdered? When rockets are launched at you, and the only way to save your children is to destroy those rockets, what are you going to do? The Gazan victims are dead, but the Lebanese victims are still alive. Will you do anything to stop this war crime? Millions of good people are waiting for your response.

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